Cars as Collectibles 101
The world of collectibles is full of objects—from the sublime to the stunning, there is someone out there who collects almost everything. The Texas rancher might be a logical collector of barbed wire, while the Manhattan attorney might collect antique scales, used for weighing through the ages. What happens, however, when the attorney becomes an aficionado of fencing and the rancher takes a hankering to old weighing devices? In a nutshell, what happens is the market expands…
Automobile history spans just over 100 years, with usage and ownership rates growing throughout the United States and the world at an ever-expanding pace. Almost everyone who reads this owns a car, has owned a car or will own a car, or perhaps dozens, throughout their life.
For most owners, cars are an appliance, not unlike a dishwasher, a cell phone or a microwave. They are built for a purpose (transportation) and used until deemed unworthy of further use, generally because of age, mileage or perhaps style.
Like it or not, just as the type of clothes we wear defines how we look to others, the type of automobile we drive defines who we are to our fellow drivers. While some would rather walk than be caught in a minivan or a hatchback, others treasure those same vehicles for their practically in hauling people or provisions. For the most part, collectible cars are well beyond their useful life as grocery getters–even for those vehicles that might have had a earlier incarnation as practical transport.
As a general rule of thumb, first-time collectors desire automobiles that they could not afford at an earlier stage of their lives. For the baby boomers, that might translate into a 1966 Mustang convertible or a 1972 Corvette. The older collector might covet a pre-war Packard or perhaps a 812 “Coffin-Nose” Cord, while his grandson or granddaughter might crave a 1981 Delorean just like the one they saw in the “Back To The Future” movies of their youth.
As the collector matures, sometimes the collection matures and grows as well. The collector whose object of desire was any 1966 Mustang just a few years ago might discover that a 1966 Mustang convertible with GT equipment is what he really wanted, and trade his first find for a specific model with specific equipment and only in fully restored condition.
The collector car market is still expanding, and will continue to do so at least in the near future. As recently as 10 years ago, many knowledgeable pundits would state flatly that “there are no collectible American cars from the 1970s”. I think that those who have recently paid in excess of $125,000 for a 1970 Plymouth Superbird Coupe would tend to disagree. If you're like me, a dyed-in-the-wool collector, don’t you just wonder how much antique barbed wire $125,000 will buy?
David H. Kinney, ASA, is an Accredited Senior Appraiser based in the Washington, D.C., area. He is the owner of USAppraisal Automobile Appraisal. Visit on the Web at www.USAppraisal.com. Mr. Kinney is also a Senior Auction Analyst with, and frequent contributor to, Sports Car Market Magazine at www.Sportscarmarket.com.